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At the frontier of Genocide Studies lies cultural genocide, a relatively new term which Law Professor David Nersessian defines as “[the attack] of fundamental aspects of a group’s unique cultural existence…with the aim of destroying the group.” Widely accepted examples of cultural genocide include the persecution of Jews in late 19th century Russia, the Australian government’s kidnapping and forced assimilation of light-skinned Aboriginal children, and the current Israeli government’s policies towards Palestinians. These and most other perpetrators of genocide—cultural or otherwise—seek to exterminate religious, ethnic, racial, or national identities. What remains as largely uncharted historical territory is the intentional and systematic persecution of gender and sexual minorities. Using the available historical texts on what we now call LGBT Americans, I examine the military discharges of the 1940s, the Lavender Scare witch hunts of the 1950s, and the organized protests of the 1960s in order to contextualize the queer American experience within the controversial conceptual framework of cultural genocide.
Ostrum, Jordan, "Gay Genocide: Contextualizing Midcentury Treatment of LGBT Americans, 1940-1969" (2015). History Summer Fellows. 2.
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